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Turing Award Winner's Presentation on K-12 CS

I just got back from attending ITiCSE (http://www.iticse12.org.il/htmls/home.aspx) a computer science education conference that is similar to SIGCSE, except that it is held in the summer in Europe/Asia. It was a fantastic conference. I served on a panel with Barbara Boucher Owens and Judith Gal-Ezer discussing the new CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards, available from:


I think our talk was well received. I also very much enjoyed getting a chance to give a presentation to several Israeli teachers who were holding their own conference the day before the start of ITiCSE. And, I was amazed by the quality of their and their students' research posters!

The most interesting part of the conference for me was hearing Michael Rabin's keynote address. ITiCSE has had success in inviting Turing award winners to give keynote addresses, and Rabin was someone I had not previously met. I was somewhat nervously awaiting his talk, as he is a theoretician, and I couldn't well remember his classic paper (co-written with Dana Scott) "Finite Automata and Their Decision Problem". However, the subject of his talk was on K-12 CS education!

It was a lovely and readily understandable talk. Many of the topics he thought should be covered in high school are explicitly or implicitly addressed as part of the new CS Principles course. I disagreed with his proposed ordering of curricular content. He proposed high schools needed to start teaching computing abstractly, with Turing machines, and then move to more concrete topics such as programming in an actual programming language. I believe most students need to start with the concrete and then move to the abstract (see for example my Inroads article with Steve Cunningham entitled "Teaching computer science in context", or my Communications of the ACM article with Wanda Dann entitled "Alice 3: Concrete to abstract"). However, I was quite pleased to see a Turing award winner giving a keynote address on K-12 CS education. And his talk was a great start to the ITiCSE conference.

Steve Cooper
CSTA Board Chair


I have a humble request: I love the blog postings here, but could you please use hyperlinking when referring to other sites? The web works this way, and ACM / CSTA should use this feature! Please don't make me cut and paste locations into my browser just to follow your links.

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